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The Sex of Things

Gender and Consumption in Historical Perspective

Victoria de Grazia (Editor), Ellen Furlough (Editor)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 443 pages
ISBN: 9780520201972
August 1996
$33.95, £24.95
This volume brings together the most innovative historical work on the conjoined themes of gender and consumption. In thirteen pioneering essays, some of the most important voices in the field consider how Western societies think about and use goods, how goods shape female, as well as male, identities, how labor in the family came to be divided between a male breadwinner and a female consumer, and how fashion and cosmetics shape women's notions of themselves and the society in which they live. Together these essays represent the state of the art in research and writing about the development of modern consumption practices, gender roles, and the sexual division of labor in both the United States and Europe.

Covering a period of two centuries, the essays range from Marie Antoinette's Paris to the burgeoning cosmetics culture of mid-century America. They deal with topics such as blue-collar workers' survival strategies in the interwar years, the anxieties of working-class consumers, and the efforts of the state to define women's—especially wives' and mothers'—consumer identity. Generously illustrated, this volume also includes extensive introductions and a comprehensive annotated bibliography. Drawing on social, economic, and art history as well as cultural studies, it provides a rich context for the current discourse around consumption, particularly in relation to feminist discussions of gender.
Susan Porter Benson
Sue Bowden
Rachel Bowlby
Erica Carter
Belinda Davis
Victoria de Grazia
Ellen Furlough
Anna R. Igra
Jennifer Jones
David Kuchta
Avner Offer
Kathy Peiss
Erika Rappaport
Abigail Solomon-Godeau
Victoria de Grazia is Professor of History and Director of the Institute for Research on Women and Gender at Columbia University. She is the author of How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945 (California, 1992). Ellen Furlough is Associate Professor of History at Kenyon College and author of Consumer Cooperation in France (1991).
"A rare pleasure. Rooting gender and consumption in the actions of people making their own history, these brilliant essays move from nineteenth-century pinups to the formation of gendered modernity. Once you've savored this volume, you'll never think of modern life in the same way again."—Temma Kaplan, author of Red City, Blue Period

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